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Patients say they would pay more quickly with online access
Patients suggest that if physicians want to improve their collections, they should provide online access. An Intuit Health survey found that patients often are late in paying not because they don't have the money, but because they are confused about their bills. The survey said e-mailing questions and paying online would correct the delay quickly. This would reduce the administrative costs physicians run up by sending multiple mailings to collect one bill, said Warwick Charlton, MD, vice president and chief medical officer for Intuit Health. "Even though there's anxiety about the total costs that they face in health care, the availability of online payment as an option is something that many of them would use," Dr. Charlton said. "And I think that's because it helps their sense of control and visibility and probably ties more directly back to the event" they are paying for. 70% concerned about bills The Intuit Health Second Annual Health Care Check-up Survey of 1,000 American [Read more]
Universal coverage may not eliminate health disparities
The 32 million Americans expected to obtain insurance coverage by 2019 under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act are likely to have better access to health care. But if Canada's experience is any guide, disparities in health outcomes will continue. Researchers followed 14,800 Canadian patients over 10 years and studied their use of health care services and health outcomes. Although all the patients were insured under Canada's single-payer health system, health outcomes varied by patients' income and educational levels, said a study in the February issue of Health Affairs. "There is evidence out there that giving people who are uninsured some health insurance coverage will reduce disparities," said David A. Alter, MD, PhD, the study's lead author. "The word of caution is that will not eliminate disparities." The high-income patients studied were 65% less likely to die during the 10-year study period than the low-income patients. Meanwhile, highly educated patients' m [Read more]
Most parents agree: Test children for smoke exposure
The majority of parents agree that children should be tested for tobacco smoke exposure during primary care visits, according to a study published online March 21 in Pediatrics. The study found that of 477 smoking and nonsmoking parents, 60% say children should be tested for smoke exposure as part of pediatric exams. Among smoking parents, 62% agreed with having children tested. No surveys previously measured parental acceptance of tobacco smoke exposure tests in the context of children's health care visits, according to the study ( The findings dispel a misconception that parents who smoke would not want their children tested for tobacco exposure, said study author Jonathan P. Winickoff, MD, associate professor of pediatrics at Massachusetts General Hospital for Children. "One of the barriers to testing kids for tobacco is: 'Maybe it will alienate parents who smoke,' " he said. "I think that's why the result [Read more]
Health reform law anniversary draws praises and renewed vows for repeal
Washington -- As the one-year anniversary of President Obama's signing the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act into law arrived, policymakers and observers used the occasion to issue reminders of what they see to be at stake in the health system reform debate. The week of March 21 gave both sides the opportunity to renew their positions on the reform law, which was enacted March 23, 2010, after a long and bitter legislative contest. The administration started out the week by launching the "Better Benefits, Better Health Initiative," a public information campaign. Although most of the major reforms in the law will not launch until 2014, the White House is promoting some of the protections and coverage expansions that already have occurred. Each day of the week, the administration and other reform law advocates planned numerous events focusing on the positive effects the reforms have had. "One year into the health care law, you, your family and your small business may be [Read more]
Poor communication found between primary care and emergency doctors
Improving communication between primary care and emergency physicians won't be easy, but it could be fostered through changes in electronic medical records, payment incentives and liability reform, a study suggests. After talking to 21 doctors in each specialty, researchers found spotty communication and poor coordination between the two groups. When physicians in the two specialties don't talk, patients can receive duplicative or misapplied treatments and may be admitted for unnecessary emergency care, according to a February study that the Center for Studying Health System Change conducted for the National Institute of Health Care Reform, a nonpartisan health policy research group ( Poor communication also means that primary care physicians don't get the chance to talk to patients about when it is appropriate to use an emergency department, and they don't have a chance to learn if their lack of office availability may drive patients to an [Read more]
Physician empathy may mean better patient outcomes
Having empathy for patients isn't something physicians should do just to be nice. A study suggests that it also leads to better outcomes and should be seen as a key component of physician competence. In what is believed to be the first scientific analysis to link empathy with patient outcomes, researchers found that physicians with high empathy had patients with significantly greater control over their diabetes than patients of physicians with low empathy scores. The findings are in the March issue of Academic Medicine ( The 29 physicians who participated in the study completed the Jefferson Scale of Empathy, which assessed how empathetic they were to patients. Researchers then looked at A1c and LDL results for 891 diabetics whom the doctors treated. Among patients who had doctors with high empathy scores, 56% had an A1c test result below 7% and 59% had an LDL test below 100. Among doctors with low empathy scores, 40% of diabetics had an A1c [Read more]
House bills would lift ban on physician-owned hospitals
Washington -- House lawmakers have introduced two pieces of legislation that would rescind a provision in the health system reform statute designed to stop the spread of physician-owned hospitals. Separate bills introduced by Reps. Doc Hastings (R, Wash.) and Sam Johnson (R, Texas) would repeal Section 6001 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. The provision barred new physician-owned hospitals from obtaining Medicare certification starting Jan. 1, and it placed strict limits on existing hospitals that seek to expand their footprints or take on new physician investors beyond where they were at the time of the law's enactment. Physician hospital advocates said the move was crippling to an industry that provides high-quality, specialized care to millions of patients. Physician Hospitals of America, which represents many of the facilities, said the issue goes beyond the 275 doctor-owned hospitals that are in operation. "Much-needed expansion projects were halted at o [Read more]
Medical oaths less of a moral compass for physicians
Most physicians take part in a medical school oath ceremony, but few believe that the rite of passage has strongly shaped their sense of professionalism, according to an article published March 14 in Archives of Internal Medicine. Nearly 80% of 1,032 practicing physicians surveyed in 2009 said they took part in a medical school oath ceremony using the original or modified version of the Hippocratic Oath, the Osteopathic Oath, the Prayer of Maimonides or the Declaration of Geneva. However, only 26% said the oath they took significantly influenced their practice of medicine or provided moral guidance in their medical careers ( "These data suggest that for most physicians, the taking of the oath is not a pivotal, meaningful, signal event, but just something that happens," said Farr A. Curlin, MD, co-author of the article. "Some people take it really seriously, and are looking to take it seriously. Others just see it as one more ri [Read more]
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